Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Too little, too late (Darfur)

After many months of wrangling, the UN Security Council finally approved a resolution to send peacekeepers to Darfur. Several years too late, in my opinion and that of many others.

The hold out had been China, which depends on Sudan for a large part of its oil consumption and which only wanted to see what was happening as an internal affair -- that is, until civil society started putting pressure on world governments to threaten to boycott the Beijing Olympics next year. I guess the butchers couldn't stand being embarrassed like that.

I must admit I was rather annoyed by the Sudanese ambassador to the UN, interviewed by the BBC. In one sentence, he said his government would respect the resolution and allow the peacekeepers to come into his country unimpeded; in the next, he said the refugee crisis had been fantasized by NGOs.

That doesn't change the fact too many have been displaced, never to return home. And it was all because the oil was in the wrong part of the country. If it had been elsewhere and a refugee crisis erupted, Bush would have sent in the 82nd and 101st Airbornes in a New York Minute.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Ban the tax-free allowance!

A few days ago, the local council here in Hamilton voted to keep one-third of the annual salary councillors make tax-free. There's nothing illegal about that -- federal and provincial law allows for this possibility and many towns and cities across the country have similar provisions. But it's an outdated one and it's time to pay politicians a straight salary, one that's fully taxable.

The rationale behind giving people from the Prime Minister down to a local alderperson a tax-free allowance was that they received dozens of requests for support from civic society groups and social clubs, and it was just easier to make donations from this stipend without having to ask for a tax receipt. But that goes back to the days when the former Revenue Canada only allowed paper returns and demanded receipts for everything. These days, however, only about 7% of Canadians actually get their returns reviewed each year and usually it is just a request for additional info. Maybe only about 2% of us, if that, get a full blown audit, way less than the 33% quota for the IRS.

In recent years, the federal government and most provinces have gotten rid of the tax-free allowance and make elected representatives pay taxes on a full salary. The trade-off has been their base salary goes way up to make up the difference, but it's a fair trade in my opinion.

That local leaders continue to get this rip-off while raising property taxes on everyone else is inherently a conflict of interest. It's time to put it to an end. All politicians should get a straight salary just like the rest of us. And pay raises should be pegged to the Consumer Price Index, just like Old Age Security is. Not one penny more.

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Prayers for a friend

A request from me to all of my readers. A friend of mine, a single mother, is trying to get a restraining order against a truly evil man -- one who abused her two children and assaulted her. I can't name names at this time due to legal reasons, but from what I understand it's notoriously hard to persuade a justice of the peace to issue such an order let alone criminal charges, because the courts naturally assume it's the custodial parent who had something to do with it; and I know this person well enough to know she truly is a victim here and so are her kids.

Oh ... and the guy's here illegally too, and managed to get a work permit while his immigration application is processed.

So, if you could all spare a prayer today for her? That she begins to see that justice is finally served. And the coward is deported back to his home country where, oddly enough, he faces even more wife assault and child endangerment charges.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

BC Ferries bomb threat a hoax

Osama Bin Laden's threats a few years back that eventually he was going to attack Canada took on new urgency as a bomb threat was called into the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen, cancelling services from Vancouver's south side to Victoria, Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands. About 50,000 people had their weekend plans torpedoed not to mention all the commercial traffic disrupted. BC Ferries is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the culprit.

An uncommonly stupid and cowardly act to be sure. But was this an Al Qaeda operation? Even though the caller sounded "Middle Eastern," according to the ferry company, I doubt that it was.

AQ never announces their operations in advance, especially not to us so-called "infidels." They only communicate on their channels and websites, and exclusively in Arabic and other languages used in Africa and South Asia. These sites are actually well known to intelligence agencies, according to Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA agent who authored Through Our Enemies' Eyes and Imperial Hubris. The trouble is there still aren't enough spies and analysts who are fluent in Arabic and the other languages we know the evil-doers use, giving the visitors a huge advantage.

Does that mean we shouldn't find this particular moron? Of course not. I hope they do, and sue him for the lost business. At 11.15 per passenger (with 50,000 grounded) plus 39.00 per car (and about 10,000 vehicles were stranded) that works to -- a minimum of $947,500; plus punitive damages for mischief. I don't care if you're a facist or an anarchist or somewhere between the two; there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of stunt.

Kudos, though, to the ferry authority and the police. This was a dry run for what eventually will be the real thing.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

9/11 Report a go

George W. Bush, the very President who fought so hard against an independent inquiry into the 9/11 attacks until forced to do so by the estates of the 3000 who were murdered, has finally been forced to eat humble pie. Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid won a huge victory when Congress voted to adopt most of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations (by votes of 371-40 in the House and 85-8, more than enough to be veto-proof) fulfilling an election promise the Democratic leaders made on the way to getting Congress back last year; and Bush said he would sign the bill. (PDF of the report here.)

It's amazing that it's taken three years to get to this moment. It's going to be very expensive to implement Kean-Hamilton, but the fact is it could have been paid for with all the money blown on Iraq with plenty to spare. Rather than fortify the defences, the US unwisely decided to go on the offence overseas. By now, the states could have had several additional military units with members from all branches as well as stronger ports and airports.

And the lost opportunity of creating permanent jobs at home, good jobs for the long term, paying taxes to the three levels of government to protect against sudden market and interest shocks like we've seen in the last few days. Instead, who knows how much has been lost not just in terms of lives and wounded, but also corruption in Baghdad and kickbacks to terrorists based in Tehran and Riyadh?

Bush had nearly six years to do what the Democrats were telling him was necessary all along. A veto here would have been a total disaster, if for no other reason than it would have been overriden in a heartbeat. But for now, there is some balance back in DC. If the GOP was still running Congress, the 9/11 report would never have gotten into committee let alone on the floor for a final vote.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

So it was tap water after all!

At my former job at the pizzeria call centre, one of the most popular items from the vending machine was bottled water. Couldn't figure out why that was -- and why people would pay seventy-five cents for what tasted like tap water when it was labelled bottled water. Until I checked the label, and oddly enough, it said it was tap water from Mississauga. Yes, Hazel McCallion country!

Today, Pepsi said they're going to be more upfront about where the water is from as well as how it's filtered (reverse osmosis). Turns out the federal government doesn't think it's a very efficient way to clean up water (about 50% is purged in the process). That may be fine for some parts of the world where many sources are polluted beyond belief; but where we pay utility bills to get the water cleaned up already, it doesn't make sense to filter water even more that's already 99% or more pure.

Get the lead out of the water? Try running the kitchen faucet on cold three minutes about once every other week. It's still less expensive than bottled or a faucet water filter. Or a reverse osmosis system.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

No solicitors means just that

I usually don't blow off my top the way I did today, but I had reason. Earlier today, I got home and no sooner did I try to rest for a few minutes before ordering dinner than someone knocks on my door wanting me to switch gas companies. Now natually he went into his shtick about "we just want to check your gas bill" but it was pretty obvious what he was up to. I pointed to the sign on my door that says "No solicitations" and when he tried to persist, I literally had to scream at him to get off my property.

Maybe I was out of line. But it's my house. And if I wanted to consider pricing options I'd call around myself. They're talking about a "do not call" list for Canada. Maybe it's time we had a "do not disturb" list that applied all around.

I don't care if the door knocker is sixty years old raising money for charity, or six and selling candy. When I say I'm not interested, I mean precisely that!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Guess this means the Darfur massacre goes on ...

A US District Court has ruled that the government of Sudan has provided financing for al-Qaeda and as such is liable for the attack on the USS Cole. The government denies any role and is refusing to pay $8 million in penalties to the estates of the 17 murdered; although the amount awarded is far less than the $105 million sought.

What I'd really like to see is countries, and officials within them, indicted for their role in 9/11. Don't forget that 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report are still censored because they name names within the House of Saud. Given Saudi Arabia's longstanding connection to the Bush clan, it would be truly embarrassing to both 41 and 43 if it comes out (as it eventually must) that country was responsible for the attacks that day.

Meantime, Sudan can come up with another excuse to prevent peacekeepers from Darfur. After all, the UN is the tool of the US (according to Middle East and African fundamentalist governments).

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

So long, Weekly World News!

Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind: I Spent a Week on Pluto! Hitler Dead at 103: Suffered Congenital Heart Disease His Whole Life! Secret Prophecies of The Virgin Mary: World Will End [Insert Date]!

These were the kinds of stories one could only find in the most outrageous supermarket tabloid of them all, Weekly World News. Next month, it becomes the latest publication to switch to an all-Web only format.

Interesting sidebar: Their parent company also publishes the National Enquirer and the much more legitimate Men's Fitness. Make what you will of that.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Drew Carey gets Barker's TPiR slot

It's an interesting choice. It wouldn't have been my first (and who I would have picked is now irrelevant since the choice has been made) but I think Carey has the right stuff.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Free Free Dominion!

HT to Psychols: I too support free speech, period -- and oppose the attempts by some to silence the right-wing site Free Dominion, no matter how much I disagree with the viewpoints posted over there.

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Best argument yet for US public health care

Here's an FAQ from a coalition of US physicians who say it's time to have a single payer health care system like Canada has.

Scrolling down to the bottom, I found this nugget -- answering the latest dead donkey the neo-cons make against universal coverage; that a government run system would result in fiascoes like Walter Reed:

As we consider what we can learn from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center debacle with regard to government-run efforts, some clarifications should be made:

1) Walter Reed Army Medical Center is an Army hospital and is run by the Department of Defense. The VA hospitals are run by the Veterans Administration (Veterans Health Administration) and are a separate structure. The reporting in the news media has clouded this fact and has led the public to presume that all government-run health efforts should be tarred and feathered and run out of town. Nevertheless, the VA health system continues to hold the position of the US health system with the most satisfied patients and one of the highest quality ratings for its use of information systems, access of patients to their medical records, transparency and accountability programs for dealing with medical errors, application of AHRQ quality guidelines to patient care for both inpatients and outpatients, and it won the Baldridge Prize (2004) for quality and patient-safety improvements.

2) There is a lot we can learn from the Walter Reed disgrace. Its operation was outsourced to a Halliburton-connected company in 2002, over the objections of some Army medical personnel and leadership, with a subsequent loss of government employees with institutional experience and a drastic reduction in staff. There was also some hanky-panky with the contracting process when the government employees’ bid for the operations contract came in lower than the Halliburton company’s bid, and the bids were subsequently “recalculated” to make the private company the lowest bidder.

Remember who used to run Halliburton? That's right!

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It's always you, you, you!

Today's Gospel reading in the Common Lectionary is the story about Martha and Mary -- you might be familiar with it; Martha's ticked off that Mary won't help her with the household chores and serving the dinner guests. Notice how Jesus gently rebukes Martha ... but also notice too that Martha still misses the point.

The point: Martha wanted someone to serve her. Me, myself, I. And that we need in turn to serve God; which unfortunately is what many televanglists also believe (meaning serve the preachers by paying up and shutting up). It's really the other way around: God came as a human being to serve us. And we need to pay attention to his service and learn from the example God has set for us.

Are we going to trip along the way in his service? Of course we are. But if we just focus on us -- that is, we each believe "I'm entitled to my entitlements," then we're certainly going to get that although it's not what we believe we're entitled to.

Compare that to the example of Abraham who was still struggling to make meet -- and served his guests without even questioning why he had to do that. His reward: His long barren wife Sarah became pregnant.

Wonder what Martha got as her "reward"? Or what today's "me first" politicians and preachers will get in the end? Let's face it, we're all more like Martha than we are Mary.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tammy Faye dies

RIP, sister.

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Why should hairdressers have to pay royalties to SOCAN?

There's no question we need to stamp out piracy in the movies, music and theatrical arts. But I have to wonder whether this is trying to squat a fruitfly with a sledge hammer.

Incredibly the group that represents music composers in Canada, SOCAN, is demanding dentists and hairdressers pay a license fee; if they play CDs, or radio (whether off-the-air or satellite). What's next? We'll be facing criminal charges if we don't pay such fees to play our own radios in our private homes or driving in our cars?

This isn't the UK. We don't pay a government-mandated fee as a condition to use signals off the airwaves. And professionals aren't pirating anything when they play freely available music because radio and TV stations are already paying reverse payola back to the record labels.

SOCAN should just bugger off unless they are actually suggesting, seriously, we adopt the UK model. Problem is, they don't have the guts to say it because there would be a revolt in Canada against that even if it is the most practical way to save vital institutions like the CBC and the Canada Council.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Rule of law restored ...

... in Pakistan. Maybe Karl Rove and Dick Cheney should pay attention.

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Congress saves public broadcasting, again

Just about the only independent media outlets left in the States are the member stations that make up PBS (on TV) and NPR (on radio). Little noticed by most of the MSM (naturally) but not the AP newswire is a vote on Wednesday night to nix Dubya's proposal to cancel this year's subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, about $420 million. It wasn't even close in the House: 357-72.

Some will argue cable and satellite fill the niche that community-owned TV used to. That may be true to some extent. But many people still don't have the income necessary to subscribe to cable or satellite and rely solely on off-air signals with old-fashioned "rabbit ears" for their entertainment and news fix. And the Big Five are all owned by conglomerates who serve Wall Street -- or Arab sheiks who secretly fund Al Qaeda.

And would cable have had the guts to give Ken Burns the chance to even produce such memorable mini-series as The Civil War and Baseball? In the case of the former, the original broadcast was in the fall of 1990, just when the First Gulf War was starting up. It got record ratings (40 million, an impossibility even for cable) and it contributed to much of the anxiety about whether it was proper to fight a war that was about oil as much as an illegal incursion into a sovereign state. Even "Storming" Norman Swartzkopf would later write that when he and his most senior lieutenants finally got to see it in their compound in Riyadh, just prior to the war, it was a wake-up call as to just how mad armed conflict can get. He's hardly a liberal but that says something about the power of alternative media.

If Burns' upcoming series about WW II (to be broadcast in September) was instead aired before Dubya's hugely illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, would the latter have gotten away with it? I doubt it, but there would have been much more pressure, even from Fox, to get the UN on side; as happened during the first war.

As for so-called liberal bias, remember that among Republican voters (not Democrats mind you, but Republicans), remember this interesting stat: One who got most of their news from PBS or NPR was four times less likely to believe Iraq had WMD than if they listened to NBC, CBS or ABC or CNN; and six times less if they watched Fox.

It's not perfect, no more so than the CBC or BBC; but when I travel in the States, I tune into NPR for the hourly news simply because it covers both national and world news and without an agenda. I do make one exception, though: Paul Harvey and his morning "newscast" -- the guy may be quaint but nowhere near as wacky as Limbaugh or O'Reilly. And I actually learn something from the guy, not how to repeat talking points from the RNC.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Brits pay £135.50 for WHAT?

It hasn't been a good few days at the BBC. First, controversy over a trailer for a special about Betty Windsor where it appears she's storming out of a photo shoot with Annie Leibowitz when in fact that didn't happen. Then last week, the broadcast regulator in the UK fined "Mother" a record £50,000 for faking a phone-in contest on the kids' show Blue Peter.

And as of late last night, the Beeb has suspended all phone-in contests indefinitely after it was revealed there were even more phony contests, including during some marquee fundraising events for legitimate charities like Comic Relief and Children in Need. The BBC Trust, which is supposed to montor how the license fees the people in Britain and Northern Ireland must pay to have a TV set in the first place are spent (presently the tax is £135.50 per household per year), has been forced into damage control; including forcing the BBC's 16,000 + employees to undergo "integrity" training.

Not that the CBC is perfect either, quite frankly its editorial standards have declined the last few years. But here in Canada all we can hope for is two ombudsmen (one English, one French) who monitor complaints about content only as a last resort; and when was the last time the CBC paid a fine to the CRTC? Maybe if we had a system of licences like they do in most of the EU the state broadcaster could actually be held into account since we could demand value for money.

Maybe then we could be spared such travesties as Gill Deacon and the pointless "Living in ..." regional shows.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No deal for Peter Whitmore

I can't believe that prosecutors would actually offer a plea bargain to that man, a man who triggered Saskatchewan's first ever AMBER Alert.

He should be designated a dangerous offender which would mean a real life sentence. Instead, life means just seven lousy years.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just when I thought work was weird enough ...

Just a slight beef with work today. I'm not complaining about the workload, if anything it's been a slow summer and we've had less than expected.

However, and for whatever reason, the particular business unit I'm in at work suddenly decided it needs its own toll free number. Or at least share the one that's used by the team that compiles lemon law complaints before sending them on to the legal department.

Which means memorizing a whole new number, new extension -- and, just possibly, a new fax number as well. And while we each now have a direct phone number also we really can't be using that either. After all, there's no individual in a team and we can't be seen being on customers' "favourites" lists.

Anything to make life more complicated. Oh, and we still don't actually have a manual for what we do -- we have to make one ourselves.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Ottawa settles with James Bay Cree

It's taken 32 years too long but it's finally happened -- and the Cree will get the money they were promised and then some as well as real self-government.

Now if they would only make an honourable offer to the Six Nations; or whoever's supposed to be in charge there -- whether it's the elected council or the Haudenasaunee.

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So if Pinochet and Stroessner did it, that makes it okay?

When Bill Clinton ran for US President, he insisted he'd only sign on to NAFTA if Canada and Mexico agreed to protocols on the environment and labour rights. Moreover, the EU regularly insists countries to which the grouping collectively gives Most Favoured Nation status must comply with basic human rights standards.

So why is it that Stephen Harper is against linking human rights to a free trade deal in Colombia? A double-taxation treaty which is pending with that country is one thing -- Canada after all does have that with a few dozen nation states. But apparently Harper is OK with 30,000 people just disappearing and about 3 million internally displaced refugees.

I guess that means he was also okay with Augusto Pinochet making people disappear in Chile during the 1970s and 80s as well. Or with what Alfredo Stroessner did in Paraguay.

Let's not forget the drug cartels still control a big chuck of Colombia too -- and they're likely in bed with al Qaeda. Guess Harper's fine with that as well.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

How Martin Luther King answered: "Who is my neighbour"?

A check of the Common Lectionary, used by the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations, shows that today's Gospel reading is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Martin Luther King brilliantly interpreted the reading the night before he was murdered thus:

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base....

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem -- or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

Now ask yourself: Do ANY of today's world leaders act like the Samaritan did?

For that matter, do we?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Most ridiculous item of the week (2007-07-14): CBC legal needs a 420

I don't smoke marijuana. Never have and I don't think I ever will. But of all the frivolous lawsuits Canada has seen of late this one is really silly and I think the people in the legal department at the CBC need to inhale a bit of cannabis. Really. A guy in Vancouver -- the Prince of Pot, Marc Emery --held regular pot parties during the NHL playoffs. He sported a T-shirt with the number 420, a code word for the drug. The jerseys sported the letters "THC" in place of "NHL." And what did the guy call it? Hockey Night in Vansterdam (a combination of Vancouver and Amsterdam).

CBC has filed a suit demanding cease and desist claiming Emery has impaired the value of the Hockey Night in Canada franchise and stated: "The title and the logo are likely to depreciate the goodwill attaching to CBC's marks." The state broadcaster even managed to get a home video yanked off YouTube.

There a difference between plagarism whether intentional (as Kenneth Hagin did to E.W. Kenyon) or not (as George Harrison did to The Chiffons); and a harmless parody like this. No serious person could possibly confuse a political statement with an entertainment commodity. Unless Don Cherry picked up the addiction.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Has McGuinty chosen kids over seniors?

Dalton McGuinty's election budget a few months back contained a comprehensive plan to eliminate child poverty in Ontario by 2011, a very noble goal indeed. But I wonder if seniors have gotten the bum rush from Pointy Head, to fund this strategy. The food allowance nursing homes get from the Toronto government is now a measly $5.57 per diem, up just 11 cents, and many long term facilities have said they're going to switch from fresh fruits and vegetables to processed food just to make ends meet.

To feed seniors properly, their caregivers need a minimum of 7 bucks a day. Maybe Dalton should try living on $5.57 per day and see how much he can eat.

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If you're going to steal the company's money ...

... make sure you don't ever take the company public, like Conrad Black did. Today, a Chicago jury convicted him and three of his co-defendants. 4 out of 13 ain't bad. Black now faces 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines; and because he revoked his Canadian citizenship, any jail time will probably be in medium security or worse, not Club Fed.

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Thomas Jefferson wasn't a Christian either

Not that often you'll get Keith Olbermann and Ed Morrissey agree -- but on this one there should be no disagreement about the disgraceful events that happened yesterday in the US Senate.

It's been a long standing tradition for the Senate to invite ministers from a variety of faith groups to lead the daily benediction that opens the day's session -- an attempt to reflect America's diverse religious cultures. Yesterday, the job was seconded to a Hindu, a first. No sooner had this minister begun his prayer -- correction, he just stepped up to the podium -- when three so-called Christian fundamentalists in the peanut gallery began to shout him down: "No Lord but Christ" and "There's only one true God."

It got worse. A right-wing website denounced the Senators for not standing up for the protestors as "the Founding Fathers would have."

Um, most of the Framers were Deists, not Christians as we understand the term today. They believed in God of course, not necessarily the twelve articles in the Nicene Creed. Thomas Jefferson actually edited a Bible that ended with Jesus being buried -- no resurrection, no Acts of the Apostles, nothing. And the writings of Jefferson and George Washington indicated their respect for Islam.

To call yesterday's happenings disgraceful would belie the point. The Kingdom Now movement is alive and well and is a threat to democracy. This verbal attack was just the start. I'm a Christian and this brings dishonour to Jesus of Nazareth who stuck out his neck and ministered to the Samaritans.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Come on, Dubya, just throw in the towel

For the first time since the Iraq war started, Dubya has acknowledged that things are going nowhere there -- and to make matters worse, not one of the 18 easily obtainable objectives he set for the "sovereign" Baghdad government have been met, not one -- and progress on only eight can be even remotely called "satisfactory." He also, finally, conceded the vast discontent among the huddled masses. Yet he still insists it's not a plan or in the cards for him to cut and run.

Sorry, Mr. President, but doing just that might be the most honourable thing to do. The Army openly admitted missing its June recruiting target by a longshot -- and June is the best time to get new recruits graduating from high school or university. If you can't win their hearts and minds, what makes you think you'll be able to persuade Iraqis of the rightness of the war; which by the way has turned into a civil war with the States caught in the middle.

Iraq is a lost cause. It's time to throw in the towel.

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Mexican gas "accidents" anything but

Pemex, the oil and gas monopoly in Mexico, has had major supply problems the last week that has driven manufacturers, particularly in the auto industry, bonkers. Now we learn a rebel group in the country is saying it's no accident -- the explosions were deliberately set.

This should be a warning signal to Canada's oil and gas industry. Many Americans, fed up with the Middle East regimes' secret sponsorship of al Qaeda (which is most likely detailed in the 28 pages of the 9/11 report that Dubya and Rove which remains censored) are turning to countries deemed more reliable -- Mexico and Canada for instance. But if can't safely protect our supplies, what will that say about how dependable we are?

I don't think most governments in Alberta, dating back to the days of Leduc #1, have given this one much thought. They had better. We obviously have to reduce our consumption of oil and natural gas, but we don't need AQ or any other fringe group that uses violence to achieve its ends dictating energy prices.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In memoriam: Edward Mirvish

It's a sad day for the entertainment and business worlds as "Honest" Ed Mirvish died today at the age of 92. A man of incredible integrity, who brought back the idea of a general store to Toronto -- one that still does business on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. A true philanthropist; his annual turkey giveaway at the store is still one of the marquee events on the calendar. And of course, the entertainer -- who restored the Royal Alexandra; built the Princess of Wales and managed the Pantages (now Canon) Theatre; and who was a huge booster of the arts community in general, including donating many of the religious artifacts at the ROM and the AGO.

If and when I do have kids, it'll be hard to explain that guy. He was a genius. Honest.

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Universal dental? Why not?

HT to fellow ProgBlog Cameron Holmstrom: The Toronto Star reports the Ontario NDP is recommending adding dental coverage to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan -- at least for those who don't have private or group dental coverage already.

This might actually be something that switches my provincial vote this fall away from Liberal. (I'm a dedicated Grit federally but an independent when it comes to provincial politics.) If Howard Hampton is sincere about this one and has budgeted it properly, it would bring us one step closer to the true near-universality of the NHS in the UK.

We also need coverage for drugs and vision care, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, but this is a great idea. Dalton McGuinty should seriously consider stealing it.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Revisiting Dubya's supporters: Tom Monaghan (Part Trois)

More trouble at the controversial Ave Maria University, specifically its school of law. Apparently fed up with the in-house muck that has been flowing through from AMU to watchdog sites like AveWatch.org, the administration has banned its staff and students from using the e-mail "for any other activities or purposes that are intended to or are reasonably likely to undermine or damage, tangibly or intangibly, the successful operations of our Law School."

Really? Why didn't it take that stand when a non-employee -- a priest, for heaven's sake -- was allegedly using the server to store his personal collection of child pornography?

Is this the same AMU run by Tom Monaghan, an avowed supporter of Dubya and who wanted to ban even soft core film in his personal fiefdom of Ave Maria, Florida (one of only two towns in the state which thanks to Monaghan's buddy Jeb Bush has been completely stripped of local democracy -- the other is Celebration, the "planned community" inside Walt Disney World)? The same AMU committed to the highest moral and ethical standards? Or is the AMU that has put forward not a conservative brand of Catholicism as it claims, but a perverted one? (And I mean perverted in both the literal and allegorical senses.)

Consider -- a hotly disputed firing of its provost, possible revocation of its accreditation (which would also mean the end of student loans at the school) and now this.

Glad I didn't become a priest. The temptation to become a paedophile or a pimp would have been way -- well, too tempting, it just would have been there and I would have gotten away with it with the help of complicit bishops like Bernard Law. Besides, there are far more appropriate Catholic universities out there where I'd want my kids to go if they were considering a private US college education -- Notre Dame and Georgetown to name just two.

"Honour and dignity"? Is this Dubya's idea of that?

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Where is Springfield?


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Monday, July 9, 2007

Executive privilege

The two words Presidents of both parties love, and members of Congress absolutely despite. To no one's surprise, Dubya invoked it today in an attempt to prevent two of his former aides -- Sarah Taylor and Harriet Miers -- from testifying in the DA dismissal investigation.

There's no question any executive leader -- whether he or she be a President or Prime Minister -- is entitled to a certain degree of privacy as well as the expectation that policy advice will be given in the strictest of confidence. But that privilege ends when there has been criminal activity or the suspicion of it; or the advisors have counselled something which is patently illegal.

Something tells me this wasn't George W. Bush. The letter may have been signed by him (actually, Fred Fielding, who replaced Miers as Bush's general counsel) but it smells of Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. And I don't think even Republicans, including Sen. Arlen "Magic Bullet" Specter (PA) will stand for it.

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So THAT'S why pasta's so expensive

Driving home tonight and tuned into the BBC World Service, I heard a report that pasta prices are expected to go up twenty percent until at least November. Why? Global warming.

Seriously. Seems a very hot spring in Europe has had a negative effect on the supplies of durum semolina wheat, which is used to make spaghetti and fettucini. Italian pasta makers say the two main countries from which they import the rest of what they need have problems of their own. Syria, facing a food shortage at home, has banned all wheat exports; while the Canadian Wheat Board says Canadian and US pasta manufacturers have claimed just about all there is available on contract and we can't export any more until at least November.

With the shortage, some pasta makers are going on the cheap and using less ideal varieties of wheat which in turn mean a pinch on the stuff used to make cereals and bread. And their prices are going up too.

I don't think a lot of people have really thought about the long term impact of a much longer growing season in Canada. Sure, it would be nice to have Thanksgiving in November and a four day weekend. But a shorter winter would also mean less ground water and even greater tensions between Big Oil on the one side, and farmers and Aboriginals on the other. Food, which has remained relatively stable in price over the years, is starting to skyrocket and long-term that is not good for the lower and middle classes.

If grains go up in price, expect meats and dairy products to come next. I don't think we'll ever get a food strike, but I fully expect Harper to tell us to eat cake when we finally do get around to complaining in record numbers.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

What else aren't the Mounties telling us?

Quite a shock tonight with the news that new charges have been laid in a case many Canadians had been presumed closed, the quadruple murder-suicide involving four Mounties and a known pot runner / chop shop operator. Two suspected associates of James Roszko have each been accused with four counts of Murder One even though they weren't actually at the scene of the massacre in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.

I don't want to say too much more about the specific charges since they are just allegations at this point. But it makes me wonder: If we weren't told the straight story about Mayerthorpe from the beginning, what else about the Red Serge and the people those mostly fine men and women investigate don't we know about?

And it goes back to that awful day two years ago. Why weren't they better prepared? Why wasn't the stakeout better executed? This was an ambush waiting to happen. The four who died that died didn't have to. Grow ops tend to be booby-trapped better than some al-Qaeda hideouts. This was a job for JTF2, not unarmoured police officers.

Oh right ... Canada also has posse comitatus, don't we?

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NYT: Bring the troops home

In a long overdue about face the New York Times editors stated it's time for US troops in Iraq to come home. The board cited the refugee crisis, the civil war and the fact that al Qaeda has only strengthened since the war began.

I hate to be the one to say we told you so, but we told you so.

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Is Harper scared of the Premiers?

Stephen Harper said the era of bickering with the provinces and territories of Canada was over. But of course, he has no reason to bicker if he's not going to even bother meeting with them.

Care to guess how many times Harper has actually bothered to sit down with the Premiers -- all 13 of them -- since he took office seventeen months ago? Once. And it wasn't even a full blown First Ministers' Conference, just a working dinner at 24 Sussex Drive.

When he drops in on a province, no advance warning to the Premier. And even if they do meet, how long is it for? Fifteen, twenty minutes?

What kind of a Prime Minister do we have when it's a man who can't even be bothered to admit that Canada is a federal state, and cooperation with the provinces is essential to keep this vast nation going? Harper can't even be bothered to set aside just one day to meet with the Premiers? What's going on?

Could it be that Harper is just ... chicken?

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Back to the future for Latin Mass, sort of

Joe Ratzinger decided yesterday to allow greater use of the Latin Mass in dioceses, where a congregation demands it. In a way, that sounds like a good thing because it may help stem a growing revolt within the Catholic Church in such far flung places as The OC and Bavaria where some rebel congregations have set up under the breakaway Society of St. Pius X. (There's also another well known "independent Catholic" church financed almost entirely by Mel Gibson -- I think you might know where this is going.)

This doesn't mean the Catholic Church is going back to all Latin any time soon and that's a good thing -- most of those from Generation X (mine) forward don't know anything about Latin anyway. But that's not what worries me.

Rather than use only the Novus Ordum, the Vatican II Latin Mass that later became the basis for the vernacular Masses used worldwide, Ratzinger has opted to also permit use of the Tridentine Mass. And the Good Friday service pre-1960 contains some very inflamatory language about Jewish people -- that they are "perfidious" and need to be "converted." Many Catholics, who oppose any dialogue with fellow Christians, let alone Jews whom they absolutely hate, will probably celebrate this retrograde move. Including Mel Gibson and his even more anti-Semitic father.

I am not one of them. I have no problem with voluntary use of Latin provided it's the Novus Ordum, not the Tridentine. (I discussed why here.) The Jewish people are God's Chosen People, not the accursed. They do not bear collective guilt for the execution of Jesus of Nazareth; only the Quislings of the Sanhedrin of the day, and the Roman authorities they sold out to.

If anything, ecumenism has been a positive force for Catholicism. I don't just mean via dialogue. It would have been unthinkable to hear Reformation hymns (such as Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God") or Gospel music ("How Great Thou Art," to name just one) in a Catholic Church even 20 years ago, now it would be unimaginable not to have it. And many Protestant hymnals have returned the favour -- most include such Catholic classics as Cardinal John H. Newman's "Lead, Kindly Light, Amidst the Encircling Gloom."

And it's no longer a sin to be a friend to a Jewish person -- probably never was, actually, but there is no longer a stigma attached to the concept.

This announcement, in its present form, may be a huge setback and turn the Church into an "us against them" fortress. We have enough of that with Word-Faith evangelicals who scorn us as well as mainstream Protestants. We don't need something that will make things worse between Catholics and Protestants, let alone Catholics and Jews.

With all due respect to the Pope, the Tridentine is a relic of history -- a despicable history of church-sanctioned anti-Semitism that in part led to the Holocaust, and it's time to consign that form of the Mass to the trash heap once and for all. No matter what Mel Gibson thinks.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

One of these is not like the other, can you spot the difference?

When I read this article this morning derived from doing a Google, I thought my blood was going to boil. It was written back in 1998 but this is probably the best indictment I have ever seen of the Word Faith movement and in particular one of the greatest heretics the English-language world has ever known, Kenneth Copeland:

My Word of Faith Testimony by Tricia Tillin

Note the stark similiarities that have resounded through the last century or so -- the "New Thought" that we are little gods and can make ourselves like God which led to:
  • Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science;
  • E.W. Kenyon, the founder of the Word of Faith (someone who Kenneth Hagin later relentlessly plagarized);
  • Rhonda Byrne and "The Secret";
  • And of course, Tom Cruise.

There can be no greater heresy as far as Christianity is concerned. Jesus died physically, not spiritually as the Word Faith claims. Jesus' blood atoned for the sins of humanity, the Word Faith states it did not. Jesus promised the bandit executed alongside him that he would be with him in heaven -- not that he would be transformed into a god.

When St. John wrote God wanted us to prosper, it didn't mean financially. God cannot be manipulated. Sooner or later Byrne, Cruise, Copeland and the rest of them will get their just reward. I don't know if I'm going to heaven or to hell but I sure know those three aren't going to heaven.

The only difference between Byrne and Copeland is the plumbing between their legs. Nothing more or less.

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Brazil loses against USA, will still probably get wild card

Brazil backed itself into a corner last night, at the U-20 World Cup of Soccer. The normally swift and often enigmatic team was stumped in Ottawa as Team USA (of all teams) won a huge 2-1 upset. Both the Americans and Poland (which also shocked Brazil in Montréal last week) move on the Sweet 16, and Brazil must hope something happens in the other five groups to allow it to claim one of the four Wild Card spots.

If the team in the familiar yellow jerseys can't pull through it will be a huge shock. CONMEBOL, the South American conference, is supposed to be as strong as UEFA (the European conference) which is why it gets a disproportionate number of entries in the tournament. And unlike the US and Canadian all-star teams which only have a few weeks to practice most of the other teams have months, even years, to work together and know each other. But maybe that familiarity also breeds complacency.

Still, let's face it, the men's tournaments are rigged in the draw from the start to ensure either an all Europe or a Europe vs South America final since those are the two strongest conferences. And even when an underdog manages to get to the second or even third rounds the refs always conspire to ensure a Cinderella story doesn't happen (witness last year's dive by an Italian player that led to Italy beating Australia -- on the team's way to winning the World Cup).

So watch the remaining games this weekend ... and what the refs will do to keep Canada from scoring enough goals against Congo to make sure Brazil gets the final Wild Card. FIFA demands fair play from its players -- how about its referees for a change?

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Who gave Al Gore that permit?

Someone in the White House must be wondering who gave Al Gore permission to host one of the Live Earth concerts tomorrow, right at the Washington Mall. After all, isn't it a federal property; and isn't the Interior Department supposed to give the all clear?

Kind of reminds me when Jim Watt -- the worst anti-environment person ever to grace a Cabinet table until Dick Cheney came along -- refused to give the Beach Boys a permit to perform in the same place. Until, it turned out, Nancy Reagan went ballistic because she was a huge fan of the group and the concert went ahead. Watt later resigned over some unrelated issues but to get that kind of a glove slap was beautiful.

My guess is Dick and Dubya will be well away from da noise in da District -- and will be at Camp David tuned into Fox News all weekend long. Then again, even Fox is starting to come around on social issues like the environment and health care ...

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

King Stephen mingles with the commoners in Nova Scotia


And to announce what? A $3.1 billion upgrade of the Halifax-class frigates that persistently list on the port side. Sure, the job has to be done. I am a progressive who also supports a strong military.

But after so cynically dismissing the people of the Atlantic as expendible both by words and deeds this can been nothing less than crass opportunism. Sure, any party leader would do the same but Harper didn't even have the decency to give the Nova Scotia premier 24 hours notice that he was coming.

Stephen Harper may be the Prime Minister of all Canadians -- but by his not walking the talk he's effectively the King from Alberta, by Alberta and for Alberta.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Olbermann's "J'accuse" moment

In one 10 minute editorial, Keith Olbermann proved that he -- not Brian Williams -- should have gotten the anchor job at NBC. And demonstrated the kind of American patriotism that used to be admired however grudgingly by those outside the States and which has been so mercilessly tramped on by the Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal with the events of two days ago being the final straw.

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Does Canada need a Black Hawk Down to end the crap?

Maybe it's the numbers that don't make it look so bad compared to the carnage in Iraq, or perhaps there's something about Canadians being complacent as compared to citizens of other countries. But today's death toll of six in Afghanistan now brings the total to 67 (66 soldiers plus one diplomat) and there comes a point where even the most devoted supporter of military action must ask, to what end and what objectives are being carried out?

Nearly 3000 people, including 24 Canadians, were murdered on 9/11 which is why we fight. But I don't think we also agreed to a mission that would have the unintended consequence of starting another civil war, nor did we agree to a mode of encouraging economic development that included growing by magnitudes the opium crop.

I'm not quite yet ready to write off the mission. But it seems it's always a singular incident that puts an end to military missions, or at least causes a major rethink in planning. Think Dieppe, the Tet Offensive, the Beirut Baracks bombing -- or the incident in Mogadishu that has become known as "Black Hawk Down." When there's a massive one day toll, it makes people wake up and demand change. If 60 Americans were killed in a single bomb attack in Baghdad, that might be the trigger for even diehard elephants to tell Dubya, enough is enough, and pull the plug on funding. Yet that's the magnitude of what's happened today in Kandahar -- and since it's our fellow Canadians, they're seen as expendible in view of a greater mission.

That's unacceptable. We need to be planning for what will be the biggest anti-terrorist operation Canada has ever seen, the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Those troops -- our men and women -- need to be in the Lower Mainland, in the background of course but they need to be home. Stephen Harper needs to say we've pulled our weight more than enough -- and the March 2009 date is a date certain for either other NATO countries to pick up the slack or for Kabul to face the music and take care of Al Qaeda and the Taliban on its own. Perhaps it should be sooner.

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Just in case Dubya flunked civics ...

Happy 4th. Yes, I'm a Canadian but since I'm presently under contract to the US division of a Japanese automaker I get US holidays off. So I guess that entitles me to reprint the following -- the very first law in the United States Code:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

  • That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness;
  • That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
  • That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States;
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world;
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent;
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury;
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences;
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies;
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments;
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007


The demands and prayers of a record 200,000 journalists and bloggers have been answered -- the BBC's Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, has been freed in just the last few minutes as I write these words. Freedom of the press lives on.

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BBB sets its sights on -- Peter Popoff

In yet another sign of the end times, the Better Business Bureau has filed a formal complaint against televangelist Peter Popoff -- you know, the guy who gave us "miracle spring water" from Chernobyl and who claimed to hear the voice of God when in fact it was his wife reading off prayer cards.

Not surprisingly, Popoff is not currently a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Neither are the other usual suspects -- a quick check of their membership as I wrote this article shows Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, John Hagee, Oral Roberts and Robert Schuller (Sr and Jr) are AWOL. Billy Graham and his kids Franklin and Anne are members of the ECFA and so is Joni Eareckson; as are (oddly) Pat Robertson, James D. Kennedy and Charles Stanley. Also a member is the somewhat inconsistent Hank Hanegraaff (I used to respect him but he can't seem to decide what a cult is anymore, unfortunately).

Ministry Watch broadens its scope and probing to include non-evangelical groups. It gives unusually high marks to groups like Catholic Relief Services and the Salvation Army; while some of the above named telepreachers who refuse to make themselves accountable get red flags from the "watchers" also. Much to my not so big surprise, Popoff isn't even listed. He's so elusive in his financial dealings he can't even be rated one star, let alone five.

I therefore find it disconcerting that it has to be a secular group, such as the BBB, that must call the bluff of these con artists. Clearly the IRS isn't doing its job nor will it as long as Dubya -- whom 99% of the televangelists support -- remains in office.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Scooter gets free pass

There is simply no excuse for any President to pardon someone for commiting perjury or to commute the sentence as has happened today, with Bush repaying an old favour to "Scooter" Libby. This, after an appeals court refused to grant him bail while his appeal is pending.

Technically, Libby still has a rap sheet and still has to pay a very substantial fine -- but this act proves more than ever that Bush knows who in the White House committed treason four years ago. It's a cover-up, plain and simple.

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Dick Cheney's Ten Commandments

Courtesy of the gang at Mother Jones. This one is an absolute cracker. (Flashplayer required for this one.)

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bye Bye Bell

So the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan won the war for Bell Canada.

I am disgusted. This is one of our crown jewels. The only reason why someone would want to take a company private, or try to sell it to get it out of public hands, is if something untoward has been happening at head office. Even if there was nothing wrong done, it stops the snooping by ordinary folks. By getting it out of the public eye it gets out of the hand of securities regulators also.

I call upon the forensic accountants at the RCMP to go over the books before letting this sale to go forward. If there has been even the slightest evidence of malfeasance, those involved, including the executives at head office, should face indictments.

Besides that, this makes a mockery of "solidarity forever." As is the case with the meatpackers, you now have one union stacked against another. Teachers also owns Cadillac Fairview (a shopping mall developer), Canary Wharf (a hot business complex in London), and big chunks of Canadian and foreign banks as well as minority interests in Microsoft, Samsung and the US mortgage lender Freddie Mac -- just to name a few.

What does that say for the future of organized labour in this country where the efforts of the unions gave us reasonable working hours, maternity leave, and universal medicare and so many other things we hold dear?

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Democracy in Hong Kong? Prove it!

As we mark Canada's 140th birthday and 47 years of real democracy (it wasn't until 1960 that Aboriginals in this country finally got the vote) let us not forget that the fight for democratic choice goes on.

One of those places is in Hong Kong. As he began his second term as the city's chief executive, Donald Tsang stated he wants to bring greater democracy to the area, which already enjoys considerable personal freedom. That's all well and good except that's what China and the UK promised ten years ago and nothing has happened yet. Tsang, like his precedessor Tung Chee Hwa, was selected by an electoral college of just 600, most of them Communist Party hacks. "Democratic" elections to the city legislature are really anything but since residents there get to pick only half of the assembly members -- the rest are basically chosen by Beijing.

Although, it is worth pointing out that there may be some positive steps already under way. For instance, an actual US-style debate was held on HK television a few months back between Tsang and his challenger -- and interestingly, both men happen to be Roman Catholic. HK also remains one of only two cities in China, the other being Macau, where open criticism of the national capital remains tolerated; people there simply will not allow Tiannanmen Square to be forgotten, nor should they.

It's hard to gauge how sincere Tsang is. After all, air and water quality have worsened in HK since the handover ten years ago and the neighbouring province of Guangdong has simply refused to listen to Tsang's pleas to enforce existing anti-pollution laws. Also last year Tsang introduced a Canadian-style GST despite massive opposition.

However, I for one am for now willing to give Tsang the benefit of the doubt. He needs to democratize Hong Kong before next year's Olympics in Beijing or his words will mean nothing at all. There should be at least one place in Red China where people are truly free -- because if that happens, the urge to spread the fever to the rest of the country and finally liberate the Chinese from their slavery will become unstoppable. It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

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